Friday, May 4, 2007

INHOFE & VOINOVICH URGE BOXER TO EXERCISE EPW JURISDICTION OVER EPA

May 1, 2007

On Tuesday, Senator Inhofe and Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, sent EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) a letter urging her to exercise the EPW Committee’s oversight of the EPA’s renewable fuels program. The letter also asks Chairman Boxer to convene a legislative business meeting to consider related legislation as soon as possible. 

"As you know, the Committee on Environment and Public Works has exclusive jurisdiction over the existing Renewable Fuels Program and primary jurisdiction over biofuels legislation in general," Senators Inhofe and Voinovich wrote in the May 1 letter to Chairman Boxer.

"Further, the Committee has a strong history of considering fuels legislation, whether related to water quality issues or more recently concerning the relationship between air quality and energy security, in a bipartisan manner. We hope that tradition continues under your leadership."

Senator Inhofe introduced a draft of President Bush’s alternative fuels legislation (S.1158) on April 19 and the bill was appropriately referred to the EPW Committee.

Full text of today’s letter.

 

 

 

SENATORS INHOFE, BOND, CRAIG & THOMAS CALL FOR ESA REGULATIONS TO BE MADE PUBLIC

May 2, 2007

Senator Inhofe, along with fellow EPW Committee members Senators Kit Bond (R-MO), Larry Craig (R-Idaho), and Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne urging the expedited publication of proposed Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations in order to support a transparent and open public process. The joint letter is in response to some recent comments by Senators criticizing obsolete versions of proposed ESA regulations.

"The regulated community, advocacy groups, and Members of Congress alike ought not seek to influence rulemaking before the process begins. To the contrary, interested stakeholders should and are in fact encouraged to fully engage in the public review process, ask the appropriate questions, and voice their concerns and views," wrote Senators Inhofe, Bond, Craig and Thomas in the joint letter to Secretary Kempthorne.

"From all accounts, the draft document, to which my colleagues referred as ‘troubling,’ is an internal working document that has undergone considerable further review and thus is no longer relevant. Therefore, in order to allay continued misunderstandings and the unfortunate injection of politics into the transparent public rulemaking process regarding one of the most powerful environmental laws in the world, we strongly urge you to publish the proposed regulations in the Federal Register as promptly as possible," the Senators concluded.

Full Text of letter: (Click here for PDF Version)

INHOFE, VITTER & ISAKSON INTRODUCE WASTEWATER SECURITY BILL

May 4, 2007

Last night, Senator Inhofe, together with Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality, and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), introduced the “Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act.” The bill will enhance and strengthen security at wastewater treatment facilities by providing local governments with the tools they need to make security decisions.  A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released this week confirms that decisions regarding security, as well as those regarding treatment technologies, are best made at the local level. The bill is nearly identical to legislation previously introduced by Senator Inhofe that passed the EPW Committee in each of the past two Congresses and similar to legislation passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives in the 108th Congress.  

“Wastewater security is an essential part of a broad, concerted effort to bolster the nation’s defenses against terrorism,” Senator Inhofe said. “My wastewater security bill provides incentives to facilities to make security improvements and conduct assessments without imposing a federal, one-size-fits all regulation.  We at the federal level must continue to work with our partners in state and local government to provide support to publicly owned wastewater facilities by providing local governments with the tools they need to make security decisions, not impose heavy-handed unfunded federal regulations.  

“Passing wastewater security legislation is vital to our nation and I hope our bill will receive prompt consideration in Committee.”  

Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act’ Key Provisions:

-Defines several terms including a "disruption of service event", "emergency response plan" and "vulnerability assessment" to include not only intentional harmful acts but natural disasters that might also impact a publicly owned treatment works (POTW)

-According to a GAO report issued last year on security at wastewater treatment plants 74% of the largest wastewater utilities had either completed, were in the process of completing, or planned to complete a vulnerability assessment. To provide an incentive to the remainder of POTWs, the Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act authorizes the Administrator to provide grants to State, municipality, intermunicipal or interstate Agency or privately owned utility that principally treats municipal wastewater to conduct vulnerability assessments.

-For those communities that have completed a vulnerability assessment and to provide additional incentive to those who have not, upon certification that a vulnerability assessment has been completed, applicants are eligible for grants to address security needs identified in the assessment.

-The bill further authorizes funds to be used for the development, expansion or upgrading of an emergency response plan, and the voluntary creation by a State or network of treatment works, or the voluntary participation in, a mutual aid and emergency network preparedness agreement.

-Maintains local control over security information

-Provides technical assistance to small treatment works to conduct vulnerability assessments and meet needs identified in the assessments

-Authorizes funds to update vulnerability assessment tools used by many wastewater utilities

-Responds to concerns raised in the GAO report about the lack of attention given to collection systems

-Authorizes a total of $225 million to fund these initiatives

Related Links:

GAO Report: Securing Wastewater Facilities – Released May 1, 2007

Previous Inhofe Wastewater Security Legislation:

WASTEWATER SECURITY BILL INTRODUCED - THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2006


EPW COMMITTEE PASSES WASTEWATER SECURITY LEGISLATION FOR THE SECOND TIME IN THREE YEARS MAY 23, 2006

SEN. INHOFE INTRODUCES HOMELAND SECURITY LEGISLATION TO PROTECT NUCLEAR AND WASTEWATER FACILITIES - MAY 12, 2003

INHOFE CALLS FOR QUICK PASSAGE OF WASTEWATER SECURITY BILL "OBSTRUCTION OF A BILL WITH BROAD BIPARTISAN SUPPORT MUST END" OCTOBER 7, 2003

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From the Blog: Animal Rights Extremists Arrested in the United Kingdom

May 2, 2007
As reported in the Western Mail, UK law enforcement authorities arrested 30 people after raids were conducted across Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands to apprehend members of an international criminal animal rights terrorist organization called Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC).  As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senator James M. Inhofe held hearings on SHAC and their dangerous tactics in the United States and passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in the 109th Congress.  (For more, visit Senator Inhofe’s EPW Committee website page on Eco-Terrorism)
 
FBI Counterterrorism Division Assistant Director Joseph Billy, Jr., released the following statement in regards to the arrests:

"Earlier today, law enforcement authorities in the United Kingdom arrested 30 individuals associated with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) and charged them with criminal offenses in furtherance of animal rights extremism.

With our law enforcement counterparts in the U.K., the FBI shares a mutual interest in stemming crimes affiliated with special interest extremism here in the U.S. In attempts to evade law enforcement and newly enacted U.S. legislation targeting their criminal ways, we have seen these individuals seek to act out beyond national boundaries. Additionally, they have sought to alter the means by which they carry out their acts, the persons they try to intimidate, and the areas in which they operate.

The distinctions between constitutionally protected advocacy and violent criminal activity are extremely important to recognize, and law enforcement officials are solely concerned with those individuals who pursue animal rights or environmental protection acts of terrorism through violence and criminal activity.

Today's arrests send a message that criminal activity is not protected on either side of the ocean. The FBI continues to address this kind of criminal activity as a high priority and has forged strong partnerships with our international law enforcement counterparts. When necessary, and to the full extent the law allows, we will share and exchange information with them to target these criminals."


The Western Mail

Police Hold Animal Rights Suspects After Raids

May 2 2007

 

Web link

Thirty-two people arrested in raids targeting animal rights extremists will face questioning from police today.

They are being held in police custody following the series of raids carried out yesterday across the UK and Europe .

It was the culmination of a two-year investigation into an alleged conspiracy of extremism targeting a variety of organisations and individuals, including Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridgeshire, police said.

The operation, described as the largest of its kind, involved more than 700 officers as warrants were executed in Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Glasgow, Greater London, Merseyside, Worcestershire, Lancashire, Northumbria, Yorkshire, south Wales, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Around £100,000 in cash, mobile telephones, computer equipment and documents were seized during the raids.

Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Leppard of Kent Police, said the operation was targeting both individual crimes and an alleged conspiracy to commit acts of extremism against animal research groups and individuals.

He said: “In recent years, animal rights extremists have conducted sustained campaigns of harassment and intimidation against the animal research industry, seeking to achieve their objectives by creating a climate of fear.

“Although the vast majority of animal rights protesters campaign lawfully, a small minority seeks to force change through criminal action.

“To some animal rights extremists, any organisations and individuals who have links to the animal research industry are justifiable targets, however tenuous those links might be.

“The victims of animal rights extremism are not only companies or universities. It is employees along with their families, their friends and neighbours who often are targeted in their own homes.”

Mr Leppard said the alleged offences included burglary and conspiracy to blackmail.

He said the operation was being led by the Kent, Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and Thames Valley Police forces because the majority of the suspected extremist activity was in the South East.

He said: “While animal rights extremism affects the whole of the United Kingdom , there are a greater proportion of incidents in the South East.

“This led forces in the region to work together to investigate a range of criminal offences including burglary, conspiracy to blackmail and offences under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, targeting animal research organisations.”

The manager of one of the raided properties, Freshfields Animal Rescue Centre in Ince Blundell, Merseyside, claimed police used “heavy-handed” tactics in the raid this morning.

Dave Calendar said some of his staff were injured as they attempted to protect the animals and some animals had been released during the raid.

Merseyside Police Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne said officers behaved “professionally and courteously” throughout the operation.

Huntingdon Life Sciences has long been a focus both of peaceful demonstrations and more extreme tactics.

A spokesman for Huntingdon Life Sciences said: “It is great to see the results of police investigations from over the past two years beginning to control the activities of animal rights extremists in the UK .”

Protesters have repeatedly broken into the controversial Cambridgeshire laboratory, which is Europe ’s biggest commercial animal testing laboratory.

They have fire-bombed cars and subjected staff and shareholders to intimidation and threats.

Companies which trade with Huntingdon Life Sciences have also found themselves the target of extremism, with militants vandalising houses and cars.

Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac) has been behind a long-standing crusade to close the animal research centre, which was founded in 1952 in the UK and is now an international business with resources on three continents.

The firm, based in Huntingdon, originally concentrated upon nutrition, veterinary and biochemical research.

But an expansion of services in the late 1950s led to the assessment of pharmaceuticals, food additives and a variety of crop protection and consumer chemicals....

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From the Blog: MOTORISTS PAY THE PRICE AT THE PUMP

May 4, 2007
MOTORISTS PAY THE PRICE AT THE PUMP
REUTERS: GASOLINE PRICES HIT $3 AS REFINERS STRAIN
 
Reuters reports in their article today, Gasoline prices hit $3 as refiners strain, that companies are “struggling to retool refineries to meet new environmental standards, have faced longer, more extensive maintenance and serious outages, draining gasoline inventories ahead of peak summer demand.” They cite as a reason an issue Senator Inhofe has been raising for years, writing:   “New lower sulfur fuel specifications have forced refiners to increase the complexity of their equipment, making them more prone to outages.”
 
While Chairman, Senator Inhofe not only raised his concerns, but provided sensible solutions. As Chairman, Senator Inhofe conducted a hearing to examine the environmental regulations in the refining industry in 2004.  At that hearing, Senator Inhofe stated:
 
“In this constrained market, we must consider the environmental and the economic. More stringent environmental regulations mean that refiners must make environmental upgrades rather than increase capacity to meet consumer demand. But you don’t just have to take my word for it - the Energy Information Administration concluded that tighter product specifications will result in: Increased likelihood of outages; diminished yields of prime fuels; and additional investment hurdles for small refiners.”
 
The 2004 hearing was one of several to examine the issue which eventually led to Senator Inhofe introducing the Gas Price Act  which would improve and expand domestic refining capacity in the United States. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats rejected this sensible solution, opting instead to offer an alternative that would have essentially socialized gas production in the US by placing the Environmental Protection Agency in charge of designing, building and operating refineries at taxpayer expense. Thankfully, their alternative was defeated.
 
REUTERS
 
GASOLINE PRICES HIT $3 AS REFINERS STRAIN
By Matthew Robinson
 
Fri May 4, 2007
 
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. gasoline prices shot above $3.00 per gallon on Friday, within striking distance of record highs, as the creaking domestic refinery system strained to keep up with rising demand.
 
Average retail gasoline prices in the world's top consumer reached $3.012 a gallon, the AAA travel group said, up more than 30 cents since early April and near the record of $3.057 hit after hurricanes slammed Gulf Coast oil installations in 2005.
 
This year, companies struggling to retool refineries to meet new environmental standards, have faced longer, more extensive maintenance and serious outages, draining gasoline inventories ahead of peak summer demand.
 
"The problem this year is our continuing and increasing inability to refine enough gasoline to meet growing demand," said Geoff Sundstrom of AAA. "I think it is very possible that we will set a new record high price this month."
 
U.S gasoline stocks have dropped by 15 percent in three months, with refineries now running at around 88 percent of capacity, well below the 92 percent analysts say is normal this time of year to build up summer gasoline stocks.
 
"By this point in the season, nationwide gasoline inventories should be building, or at a minimum plateauing," Stephen Schork of the Schork Group said in a report.
 
New lower sulfur fuel specifications have forced refiners to increase the complexity of their equipment, making them more prone to outages.
 
In addition, gasoline demand is strong and showing no signs of slowing down as vacation season approaches, said Jason Schenker, economist for Wachovia Bank.
 
"We're in the first week of May -- the driving season hasn't really begun. If we are nowhere near peak demand, we're nowhere near peak prices," said Schenker.
"I think we could very likely see $3.25 as a national average and quite possibly spikes to $3.50," he said.
 
Despite high prices, Schenker said he thought motorists were unlikely to cancel planned vacations.
 
ALARM BELLS
 
Government officials have expressed concern about summer gasoline prices, but added they had no plans to temporarily relax environmental regulations to ease supply problems.
 
But AAA said rising prices highlights the need for government to take a closer look at energy policies.
 
"Today, we have $3.00 a gallon gasoline for the third time in the last three years. Alarm bells ought to be going off in the offices of every member of Congress and among the presidential candidates," said Sundstrom.
 
"We simply have to increase our ability to refine gasoline, we need a much more aggressive conservation program, we need to improve our ability to store gasoline on an emergency basis."